I suppose I should add a little colour to the sharing of my mental health travails. They started when I was in what we then called the second year at my secondary school by way of panic attacks and night terrors and developed into depression and anxiety. They carried on, one way or another, since then. What a laugh.
People often ask me (no, they don’t) if I had mental health problems before I joined the British Red Cross in 2015. Yes, I did. In my full time job with the DWP, particularly in the last decade or so before I left, I was blessed to have kind, considerate and highly professional managers. I was supported every step of the way, which minimised the effects of my condition. Whilst I was pleased to leave, I was highly appreciative of my managers’ efforts.
When I joined the British Red Cross, I had already given detailed information of my illness, in my CV, at my job interview and then to my manager. This worked well, too, until my manager changed and, unbelievably, I was the victim of bullying and abuse for the first time in a professional life that spanned 43 years. I had a breakdown as a result of that and, better still, when I left, the actual CEO of the British Red Cross said that in effect I was lying and had made it all up. You couldn’t make it up. No one would believe it if you did make it up.
So, I suppose my demons have been affected by the people I have met along the way. I am so grateful to the great managers I had at work over the years and I feel only pity for the bad ones. Given that for long periods of time I could not sleep properly, I still wonder how they can, knowing what they know.
I’m in the middle of therapy right now, which is as exhausting as therapy always is. My current issues are mainly to do with sleep deprivation with all the problems that brings. I feel I am making progress with the help of good and decent people, especially family and friends and at work.
I have a few ideas, still in an embryonic state, of how to seek to find a brighter day in the future. I’m still angry about the bad people who are tolerated by the good at the British Red Cross, but not angry enough to fret or lose sleep about it. I don’t want to forget that experience, either, because even in the most well-meaning of institutions bad things and bad people can still prosper. And I don’t want to forget the lonely and isolated people I helped during my time with them and made their lives better. That all got forgotten by the bullies and abusers, but not by me.